Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




Belief in the Communion of Saints is one of the articles of the Creed. The emphasis needs to be placed on the word “Communion,” I think. If the meaning of Communion were better understood, the Saints would be better understood. Aloofness from the Saints is the real difficulty. It has become an obsession. It sometimes seems as though it were for some people a matter of religious principle. Aloofness from the Saints seems to be regarded as a protection against superstition. As a mere matter of spiritual safety, it would seem that the Saints must be kept at arm's length.

Saints seem to be regarded mote seriously than fairies, but with much more suspicion. They belong to the unreformed days. Aloofness breeds misunderstanding. One cannot maintain an attitude of aloofness towards the Saints and at the same time expect to understand them.

If one inquires into the further cause of this aloofness, one discovers a certain fear complex. It strikes me as a curious and somewhat quaint fear. Why are people afraid of the Saints? They are afraid that the Saints will pray for them! For some reason which I have not yet fathomed, that would seem to be distinctly dangerous. Who knows what the Saints might pray about? They might pray most unadvisedly. It is just as well to keep aloof. Then all danger will be avoided. And there will be this further advantage. One will be left with an open mind for an unbiased investigation of spiritualism. And this is often so very comforting! Well, there you are.

Why not investigate the other side? Why not try Communion with the Saints? Why not begin with a few Saints? The ones in the Bible, for example? They knew Our Lord intimately. He taught them how to pray. They watched Him while He prayed. They noted the kinds of people for whom He prayed. He taught them to care. There was His Mother. And Saint Joseph. And the Apostles. And Saint Stephen. And the Evangelists. They are with Him now. For centuries of our time they have heard Him make intercession. Really, I do think that they can be trusted. They hear Him while He prays for us now, at this very moment while you are reading this letter. The Holy Ghost helps them to understand. The Saints are the perfect people who are far grown into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. They know more about this world than any one living in it today. They know more about us than any one we know. And they know more about prayer than we have ever imagined. This is the cloud of witnesses by which we are compassed about. This is the Communion of Saints. Here is where we begin. If one would make a serious effort to understand the meaning and the significance of the Communion of Saints, one must train one's mind by repeated acts of the memory to keep in constant view the company of Saints who share in Our Lord's unceasing intercession. We must form the mental habit of thinking of the Saints as people whose chief business in life is the work of prayer. We must train our minds to think of the Saints as a company of intercessors. We must correct every tendency to dissociate the Saints from the life and work of prayer. The prayer life of the Saints must be a vital factor in our personal religion. We must take the prayers of the Saints as a matter of fact.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury